What is Addiction?

The state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming.

When an alcohol/drug user can't stop taking a drug even if he wants to, it's called addiction. The urge is too strong to control, even if you know the drug is causing harm.

When people start taking alcohol/drugs, they don't plan to get addicted. They like how the drug makes them feel. They believe they can control how much and how often they take the drug. However, drugs change the brain. Drug users start to need the drug just to feel normal. That is addiction, and it can quickly take over a person's life.

Addiction can become more important than the need to eat or sleep. The urge to get and use the drug can fill every moment of a person's life. The addiction replaces all the things the person used to enjoy. A person who is addicted might do almost anything—lying, stealing, or hurting people—to keep taking the drug. This could get the person arrested.

Signs of Alcohol/Drug Abuse and Addiction
People with alcohol/drug problems might act differently than they used to such as:
  • Spend a lot of time alone
  • Lose interest in their favorite things
  • Get messy—for instance, not bathe, change clothes, or brush their teeth
  • Be really tired and sad
  • Be very energetic, talk fast, or say things that don't make sense
  • Be nervous or cranky (in a bad mood)
  • Quickly change between feeling bad and feeling good
  • Sleep at strange hours
  • Miss important appointments
  • Have problems at work
  • Eat a lot more or a lot less than usual
Addiction is a brain disease:

Alcohol/Drugs change how the brain works. These brain changes can last for a long time. They can cause problems like mood swings, memory loss, even trouble thinking and making decisions.

But how does taking drugs become an addiction?

Our brains want us to repeat things that we need or enjoy—like eating a good meal. That's why you want to eat more dessert than you know you should. That's why a little child often shouts "again!" when you do something to make her laugh.

All drugs of abuse excite the parts of the brain that make you feel good. But, after you take a drug for a while, the feel-good parts of your brain get used to it. Then you need to take more of the drug to get the same good feeling. Soon, your brain and body must have the drug to just feel normal. You feel sick and awful without the drug. You no longer have the good feelings that you had when you first used the drug.

What makes people more likely to get addicted to drugs?

Trouble at home. If your home is an unhappy place, or was when you were growing up, you might be more likely to have a drug problem. When kids aren't cared for well, or there are lots of fights, or a parent is using drugs, the risk of addiction goes up.

Mental health problems. People who have mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, or attention deficit disorder are more likely to become addicted. They might abuse drugs to try to feel better.

Trouble in school, trouble at work, trouble making friends. Failures at school or work, or trouble getting along with people, can make life hard. You might abuse drugs to get your mind off these problems.

Hanging around other people who use drugs. Friends or family members who use drugs might get you into trouble with drugs as well.

Starting drug use when you're young. When kids use drugs, it affects how their bodies and brains finish growing. Using drugs when you are young increases your chances of becoming addicted when you are an adult.

Your biology. Everyone's bodies react to drugs differently. Some people like the feeling the first time they try a drug and want more. Other people hate how it feels and never try it again.

Does Addiction Run in Families?

Addiction can run in families. If people in your family have addictions, you are more likely to become addicted if you use drugs. It's like having a greater chance of getting heart disease because your father and many of his relatives have it.

The good news is that many children whose parents had drug problems do not become addicted when they grow up. The risk is higher but it does not have to happen. And you can protect yourself from the risk by not abusing drugs at all.

Why Is It So Hard to Quit Alcohol/Drugs?

Healing from addiction takes time. Making up your mind to stop using drugs is a big step. Being addicted makes you afraid of what will happen if you don't keep taking the drug. People often won't try quitting until they're forced to, because it seems too hard.

When you stop using the drug, it upsets your body and brain. You might feel very sick for a while, and feel a very strong need to take the drug. It can be really hard to refuse to use the drug when you feel that bad.

But you don't have to do it alone. Support groups, treatment programs, and sometimes medicines can help. You'll meet people who understand what you're going through, who can give you advice and cheer you on. Counselors can help you find medicines that make you feel less sick and reduce your cravings to use the drug. They can also teach you how to cope with problems without using drugs.

After you've stopped using the alcohol/drug, you still have a lot to do:
  • You have to relearn how to live without using drugs.
  • You have to work on the problems your drug abuse caused with your family, your job, your friends, and your money.
  • You have to stay away from people you used drugs with, and places where you used.
  • You have to learn what makes you want to take drugs again, so you can avoid or work on those things.
  • You may also need treatment for problems that led to your drug use, such as depression, anxiety or other mental health problems.

If you or a loved one is dealing with abuse or addiction, please contact us – we are here to help.